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In anticipation of the 300th anniversary of the death of Diego Velázquez (1599-1660; court painter to King Phillip IV), Dalí devotes his eighth masterwork to an interpretation of Velázquez’s great painting, The Infanta (1660, The Prado, Madrid). This portrait was originally painted to act as a calling card for the young Infanta in order to find an appropriate suitor from another kingdom. Many artists were painting variations on Velázquez’s work, as with Picasso’s series of Las Meninas paintings. In contrast, Dalí chooses to transform this thoroughly traditional Spanish subject by connecting it with his theory of nuclear-mysticism, employing his divisionistic technique of the 1950’s. In Dalí’s canvas, a small silhouette of Velázquez stands in a hallway in The Prado, painting a foreshortened black & white Infanta on a vertical panel. This hallway lurches up to the top left, with a pattern of slashing diagonal light flooding the scene from the vertical windows. Amid the light and shadows of the composition, a second Infantaimplodes from colorful fragments, becoming a ghostly specter who fills the entire canvas.
In order to suggest the pattern of the atomic particles, Dalí forms the Infanta’s body out of a series of abstract, calligraphic squiggles, as can be seen in this detail of her hand holding a rose. While Dalí was deeply critical of Abstract Expressionism for what he saw as its abandonment of intellectual content, here their gestural line style is used as a pattern out of which Dalí creates representational imagery, similar to the way Seurat used colored dots to create imagery. In a sense, Dalí uses Abstract Expressionism against itself to cancel itself out.
In describing his calligraphic patterning, Dalí says he is employing bits of “anti-matter,” linking the gestural brushstroke with modern science. He explains that the flecks of paint are like the tracks of atomic particles as they appear on photographic film. Even the rose in the Infanta’s hand resembles a nuclear explosion, so Dalí is consciously intertwining these various strands of information.
One additional Dalínian element is found in the construction of the Infanta’s face, located in the upper center of the canvas. It is formed by the overlapping of several rhino horns rushing together, bringing the golden spiral into the composition, and ironically linking the innocent Infanta back to Dalí’s scandalous Young Virgin Auto Sodomized by her own Chastity.
1958, New York, Carstairs Gallery, “Salvador Dali”
1965, New York, Gallery of Modern Art, “Salvador Dalí, 1910-1965”
2000, Hartford, Connecticut, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, “Dalí's Optical Illusions”
2000, Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, “Dalí's Optical Illusions”
2000, Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, “Dalí's Optical Illusions”
2005, St. Petersburg, Salvador Dali Museum, "Pollock to Pop: America's Brush with Dali"
2006, Tokyo, Ueno Royal Museum, “Dalí Centennial Retrospective”
2007, St. Petersburg, Fl., Salvador Dalí Museum, “Dalí and the Spanish Baroque”
2008, Barcelona, Museu Picasso, “Oblidant Velázquez. Las meninas”
2012, Paris, Centre Pompidou, “Dali: Retrospective”
2013, Madrid, Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, “Dalí. Todas las sugestiones poéticas y todas las posibilidades plásticas
2014, St. Petersburg, Salvador Dali Museum, "Picasso/Dali Dali/Picasso"
2015, Barcelona, Musee Picasso, "Picasso/Dali Dali/Picasso"
2019, St. Petersburg, The Dalí Museum, more